The question seems academic: When does Clay Buchholz, author of the first no-hitter ever by a Red Sox rookie, make his next start?
But it's not that simple. The organization's concern for the workload of a young pitching prospect - much like the "Joba Rules" the Yankees have for their phenom, 21-year-old Joba Chamberlain - will shape their decisions on how much he is used for the balance of the season.
"We have a plan," Sox general manager Theo Epstein said last night. "We're not necessarily going to articulate it [publicly]. This [no-hitter] can't change that. We've got to do what's right for the team and for Clay for the long term.
"We'll continue to talk about how that plan fits with our objectives in 2007 and beyond."
Last night was the first time this season Buchholz had pitched past the seventh inning. In eight starts with Triple A Pawtucket after being promoted from Double A Portland July 12, he threw as many as seven innings just once, and threw more than 90 pitches just twice. In 15 starts for the Sea Dogs, he threw as many as seven innings just twice. In all, he's thrown 140 1/3 innings on three professional levels, 15 with the Sox, including six in his big league debut Aug. 17.
"He's not going back to Triple A," said manager Terry Francona, parodying his own promise before Buchholz's big league debut that he would be sent back to the minors, even if he threw a no-hitter.
"I'm sure [another start] will probably happen, but I don't know exactly when," Francona said. "There are some issues - escalating innings - we need to keep an eye on.
"But we have plenty of time to figure that out."
Epstein said last night that Buchholz, who had not thrown more than 98 pitches in a game this season, would have been pulled from his no-hitter if his pitch count had reached 120 and he had batters left to face.
"All the thinking and worrying about pitch counts got the edge off being nervous about the no-hitter," Epstein said. "Early on, we knew we'd be in a box late in the game. The pickoff [of Brian Roberts in the sixth] was huge. Jay Payton's first-pitch out [to end the eighth] was huge.
"Tito called up a couple of times. We were talking about it. We knew that he hadn't thrown more than 98 pitches in a game . . . If we had taken this guy out, after 120 pitches with one out to go, we would have unwittingly become the poster boys for pitch counts and stuff we don't want to be known for. I'm glad it didn't get to that point."
Epstein was asked if he took special satisfaction in the fact that the Sox drafted Buchholz with the draft pick they received as compensation for the Mets signing Pedro Martínez after the 2004 season. Buchholz was drafted 42d overall, with a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.
"I have a world of respect for Pedro Martínez and it was a difficult decision letting him go," Epstein said.
"That said, I think this does underscore how successfully at times this organization has made the transition from an aging team to a team that has integrated a lot of youth into it. We haven't been perfect and it's a very difficult thing. But I think [the no-hitter] is probably the best symbol we have of the transition we made.
"It's cool. We've all seen Clay in the minor leagues where we've said, 'He's got no-hit stuff tonight.' But no one ever thought it would happen in his second big-league start."
Crisp hangs tough
Even after running into the center-field wall at full tilt Friday night, Coco Crisp was back in the starting lineup last night, though he was flanked by two nonregulars. Bobby Kielty was in right field, playing in place of J.D. Drew, who fouled a ball off his right foot Friday, and Brandon Moss, just recalled from Pawtucket, was in left.
"He's OK - he's a pretty tough kid," Francona said of Crisp. "He understands his responsibility. When we went out there, I said, 'Are you OK?' He said, 'Does it matter?' He's right in a way, and we appreciate that mentality."
Crisp said that although he was sore immediately after hitting the wall, he felt fine yesterday. Crisp went 0 for 4, not that his offense was needed, in the Sox' 10-0 victory.
Asked about the condition of the wall, he smiled and said, "It's still standing, isn't it?"
Kielty, who replaced Drew in the top of the third after Drew hurt himself batting in the second, felt his back tightening as the game went on, Francona said, but came to the ballpark yesterday feeling much better. Drew took batting practice and said he expected to be available if Francona needed him to hit, although that didn't prove to be the case.
"Actually, when it first happened, my foot didn't hurt because it actually went numb," Drew said. "But then later in the at-bat, I rolled over on it. We took pictures of it, iced it, and most of the swelling went down."
X-rays on Drew's foot were negative.
Manny Ramírez remains sidelined indefinitely with a strained oblique muscle . . . Tim Wakefield, scratched from his start Friday because of back tightness, will throw tomorrow. If all goes well, Francona said, he'll throw a side session the next day and be on track to start Thursday.
Help is here
The reinforcements arrived in big numbers, including last night's hero, Buchholz, and Moss, who was leading the International League in doubles.
Also summoned were Jacoby Ellsbury, whose PawSox-record 25-game hitting streak came to an end Friday night; relievers Bryan Corey and Craig Breslow; and veteran infielder Royce Clayton, who was batting just .143 in seven games with Pawtucket. Clayton, 37, was joining his 11th major league club.
Catcher Doug Mirabelli was activated from the disabled list after missing the last two weeks with a strained calf.
Not so grand
Mike Timlin on Friday became the 13th pitcher in history to appear in at least 1,000 games, although the milestone appearance was not one for the scrapbooks.
Timlin entered in the sixth and was charged with four runs on four hits, including a three-run home run to Nick Markakis, in two-thirds of an inning.
"Not the way I planned it," Timlin said. "My entrance was a lot better than my exit."
Francona said no apology was forthcoming from Major League Baseball in the aftermath of sending an official to check whether he was wearing a uniform top under his pullover during a game against the Yankees.
Francona said he initiated a phone call to the MLB office after the incident, one that incensed him because of its timing, during Wednesday's game.
Francona exonerated Bob Watson, MLB vice president of field operations, and his aide, Matt McKendry, saying they had been understanding of the situation. "Terry got upset, and he was within his rights to be upset," MLB executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon told ESPN.com. "He's in the middle of a game and he has a lot of things on his mind, and the agent should have shown a little better judgment by waiting until there was no action. The timing was unfortunate. And it will not happen again."
A look back
The Sox finished August with a 16-13 record for the month. Mike Lowell, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a third-inning single, led the Sox in hitting with a .393 average for the month and was one of three Sox players to hit .300 or better. The others were Dustin Pedroia (.346) and David Ortiz (.311), Ortiz leading the Sox in home runs (8) and RBIs (21). Among the regulars who struggled in August were Kevin Youkilis (.241), Jason Varitek (.234), and Crisp (.227), with Crisp having a frighteningly low slugging percentage of .299, with just seven extra-base hits, all doubles. The Sox hit 12 home runs in the last eight games of the month after hitting just 13 in the first 21 games. Varitek finished the month with just six hits in 36 at-bats (.167) over his last 12 games, and traditionally has struggled offensively in the season's last month (.234 career).
Pawtucket came within one out of being no-hit in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. After Matt DeSalvo and Scott Patterson of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' Triple A affiliate, held the PawSox hitless for eight innings, Charlie Manning entered in the ninth and struck out the first two batters before giving up a single to Chris Carter, the first baseman who came in the Wily Mo Peña deal. The PawSox eventually scored a couple of runs but lost, 11-2. Carter got three more hits in the nightcap as the PawSox roughed up the Yankees, 6-3.
Joe Angel, the Orioles broadcaster who caused a stir when he said Fenway Park was a "toilet," compared with Oriole Park at Camden Yards, when the Sox were last in Baltimore, joked yesterday that he hadn't seen any pickets outside the team's hotel this weekend.
"Fenway Park is a great place to watch a game," he said. "I love broadcasting a game here. The atmosphere is fantastic. But fans are not the primary concern here. Everyone knows how jammed in they are, how there aren't enough restrooms. I've seen people here urinating outside the bathrooms.
"When we come here, we walk in underneath the stands, and that's what you smell. That shouldn't be happening. If this ballpark is a cathedral, then people shouldn't be urinating outside the bathrooms."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley, a minor league lifer before getting the Baltimore job, said he never had cursed at an umpire in his career, one of the reasons he was incensed at his ejection Friday night, when he said umpire Joe West cursed at him. "I'm not afraid and I'm not intimidated," Trembley told reporters. "Things would have been fine if Joe didn't come over. Joe had no business coming over there. He threw me out, and that's fine, but what he said to me after that, that was not fine." . . . Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, after his ninth-inning error Friday kept the Sox alive: "I was just saying, 'Please, God, kill me.' I wanted the Earth to open and for me to go and, poof, sand just to go on top. This was the last thing we were waiting for, especially when they hit it to me. Bad things are happening to us right now."